Do the French love/hate Lafayette ?

Feb 19th, 2007, 11:00 AM
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Do the French love/hate Lafayette ?

In 2004, our Kiwanis Club (of Lafayette, Louisiana) got an email from a Kiwanis Club in France seeking to correspond with other clubs around the world to exchange ideas. As southwestern Louisiana has a very definite French (and Spanish) background, we have a healthy francophone population (as well as the older of us who speak Cajun - a mixture of French and Spanish). I digress...

Anyway I arranged for representatives of their club to come to Lafayette and spend a week with us in April during Festival International 2006.

We became immediate friends & they had a great time here. They have invited us to their club in June. I am preparing to give a short speech to them about Louisiana, Lafayette, Cajuns & our local club.

Our city, Lafayette, is one of several US cities that were named after the Marquis de Lafayette, who played quite an important role in the American Revolution. 2007 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Marquis, and our city will be having celebrations throughout the year to commemorate the occasion. Anyway, I was thinking of working this "connection" to France in part of my speech, until my sister-in-law told my wife that her friend in Paris said that "the French hate Lafayette". Now I realize that perhaps Lafayette had way more of a rock star status in the US during his lifetime than in France, and that you can't lump everyone's opinion into the same boat, but should I avoid the topic entirely ?

Is there a common consensus among the French about Lafayette and whether he was good or bad, etc.?

yddkdd is offline  
Feb 19th, 2007, 11:11 AM
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Well, the American air squadron ("Escadrille Américaine") who flew combat against the Boche were called the Escadrille Lafayette by the French, so my guess is that, at least at the official level, he was held in esteem.
Robespierre is offline  
Feb 19th, 2007, 11:19 AM
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I somehow doubt the French would have tolerated a major department store in their midst which was named for someone they didn't think very much of.
Dukey is offline  
Feb 19th, 2007, 11:30 AM
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Lafayette is well respected in France - for some different reasons than in the USA - as one of the'declaration des droits de l'homme' (the human rights bill)'s fathers, as someone who fought to abolish slavery, as a swearer of the first national constitution, as an overall great humanist ... Just look how many places, streets, ... have his name (in France) - would someone hated (or even just disliked) have so many ? certainly not.
norween is offline  
Feb 19th, 2007, 11:40 AM
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No-one is hated 200 years after their death.

But De La Fayette had a complicated history, including resposibility for a massacre of demonstrators on the Champs de Mars. Far, far bloodier than the Boston Massacre, and the perpetrators weren't later put on trial and found not guilty by a jury of their peers.

Rather than worry about whether more French think he was a good or bad thing (and opinion is still a bit divided on this), you'd establish really good relations with your opposite numbers if you had a thorough understanding of what he did with the majority of his life that was spent in France or in involuntary exile elsewhere in Europe.

Wikipedia him, but read the stuff in the discussion section as well, since - like all interesting bistorical figures - he had more than one side.

By the way, the department store isn't named after him.
flanneruk is offline  
Feb 19th, 2007, 11:41 AM
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Well, there's a fairly substantial ceremony every July 4 at the Picpus Cemetary in Paris that I have been lucky to attend where you'd definitely get the impression the French think well of Lafayette. A lot of his descendants show up for the festivities, and there are speeches and bands and tributes. A nice event.
StCirq is online now  
Feb 19th, 2007, 11:50 AM
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I realize Wikipedia is not a 100% reliable source, but this entry looks pretty balanced...even the criticisms of it in the discussion section are pretty minor.
Basically, it looks like Lafayette was pretty well-respected in France. He seems to have been somewhat of a moderate during the French Revolution, respected for his participation while trying to be a voice of reason, apparently saving many innocents when the mobs got out of control. His views did get him in trouble...he served five years in prisons in Prussia and Austria until Napoleon begrudgingly had him released. Apparently he wound up serving in government again and repaid Napoleon by voting against his receiving a life consulate and the title of Emperor! You gotta love that!
We live in Virginia, very near George Washington's Mt. Vernon, and many times we have seen the key to the Bastille that Lafayette presented to Washington and which is now prominently displayed and featured during tours of the mansion. Next month, we're planning a visit to Paris for the first time and one of the first places we're going is to pay our respects at Lafayette's tomb in the Picpus Cemetery. I did not realize this was the 250th anniversary of his birth...that makes our visit all the more special! Thanks for letting us know!
DaveBrad is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 02:37 PM
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To be honest, most French people only think of the street, and the department store on it. La Fayette is seen as a kind of consensual aristocratic character of the French revolution, a bit like Mirabeau. One famous, albeit bad, French "writer", Gonzague Saint-Bris, has written a biography for the 250th anniversary, and is trying hard to promote it, but nobody seems to care.

And, FYI, Cajun is not "a mixture of French and Spanish", it's 17th Century French from Poitou and Normandy whose only evolution came from English and not from modern French (even less so from Spanish! ), hence the kind of weird anglicised "linguistic time warp" it produces to a native French speaker's ear.
Art_Vandelay is offline  
Feb 20th, 2007, 02:54 PM
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Everybody from Lehigh HATES Lafayette!!!
Zeus is offline  

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